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Rwandan President, First Lady highlight OC Commencement

Tuesday, April 20, 2010   (0 Comments)
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Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda, will be one of Oklahoma Christian’s keynote speakers during spring commencement on April 30. The First Lady of the Republic of Rwanda, Mrs. Jeannette Kagame, will receive an honorary doctorate for her significant contribution to the worldwide fight against HIV/AIDS and poverty. Because of the large graduating class, there will be two commencement ceremonies—at 10:00 a.m. for the Colleges of Arts and Sciences and Biblical Studies, and at 2 p.m. for the College of Professional Studies. Kagame will speak during the afternoon session and Dr. Jack L. White, who currently practices law with The Lanier Law Firm, P.C. in Houston, will be the morning speaker. During his first visit to Oklahoma Christian in 2006, Kagame and OC signed the Rwandan Presidential Scholars program that now brings 10 top Rwandan high school students to OC each year. There are now 60 Rwandan students at OC and the first class of 10 Rwandan scholars will graduate this spring along with 300 classmates, making this Oklahoma Christian’s largest graduating class in the school’s 60 year history. "The Rwandan students have been outstanding performers in the classroom and good citizens in our university community,” said President Mike O’Neal. "Oklahoma Christian has formed a strong relationship with the leaders of Rwanda to help meet the long-term needs of President Kagame’s Vision 2020. Our involvement in Rwanda began through the efforts of OC Trustee and alumni Richard Lawson and his wife, Pat, who hosted President Paul Kagame in Minneapolis.” In 2004, O’Neal and his wife, Nancy, accompanied the Lawsons to Rwanda as guests of President Kagame. In 2006, Kagame, Mrs. Kagame, the Rwandan ambassador and four cabinet ministers made a state visit to the OC campus and the state Capitol. "Since that time, OC’s nation-building efforts in Rwanda include five major initiatives: Rwandan Presidential Scholars with 51 of Rwanda’s top students studying on campus (along with 9 others who have come on their own); the community and educational programs of the Rwanda Outreach & Community Foundation staffed by former OC employees Bryan and Holly Hixson; Wishing Well, a student initiative that raises money for clean water projects in Rwanda and other African nations; Rwandans4Water, a student initiative of the Rwandan Presidential Scholars in partnership with the Oklahoma City-based Water4 Foundation to form a company to hand drill water wells in the most needy places in Rwanda; and Peace Through Business-Rwanda, a partnership with the Oklahoma City-based Institute for the Empowerment of Women, which brought 15 Rwanda businesswomen to the OC campus in 2008 for ‘mini-MBA’ classes.  Further initiatives to partner with the Rwandan leadership are being explored.”  Under Kagame’s leadership, Rwanda is recovering from the genocide that devastated the country in 1994. "President Kagame has worked to bring peace and stability to Rwanda,” O’Neal said. "We are extremely proud of our relationship with the Rwandan leadership and their efforts to improve the lives of all Rwandans. We are confident that the Rwandan students now graduating from Oklahoma Christian will return to Rwanda and make a significant contribution to that country’s future.” Kagame was sworn in as president of the Republic of Rwanda for a seven-year term on September 12, 2003, following the country’s first ever democratically contested multi-party elections held in August 2003. He was born in Rwanda in 1957, but his parents soon fled to Uganda to escape the violence. He joined in the five-year liberation war in 1980 and served as a senior officer in the Ugandan army from 1986 to 1990. He attended a staff and command course at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., in 1990 and then returned to Rwanda after 30 years in exile to lead the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) in the liberation struggle. Following the liberation of Rwanda, he was appointed vice president and minister of defense in the Government of National Unity in 1994 and was elected chairman of the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) in 1998. Two years later, Kagame was unanimously elected president by the Transitional National Assembly. Kagame has received recognition for his leadership in peace building and reconciliation, development, good governance, promotion of human rights, women’s empowerment, and advancement of education. Kagame holds a diploma in professional management and business studies from the Open University of London. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from OC in 2006. He has also been awarded honorary doctorate degrees from University of the Pacific, La Roche College and India’s Vellore Institute of Technology. In 2003 he was awarded the Global Leadership Award by the Young Presidents Organization for his role in reconciling Rwandans. He and Mrs. Kagame have been hosted at the White House and in numerous capitals throughout the world. The First Lady of the Republic of Rwanda, Mrs. Jeannette Kagame, personifies an active, relentless and passionate devotion to uplifting the lives of vulnerable populations in Rwanda, and in particular those of widows, orphans of the genocide and impoverished families. As the nation’s First Lady, Mrs. Kagame has admirably balanced family, social life and philanthropy, not only in her own country but continentally and worldwide. In 2001, she hosted the first and highly successful African First Ladies’ Summit on Children and HIV/AIDS Prevention in Kigali. She became a founding member of the Organization of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA) in 2002, and served as its president from 2004 to 2006. In 2001, she founded PACFA ("Protection and Care of Families against HIV/AIDS”), an initiative primarily focused on providing a holistic approach to HIV prevention and care for the whole family. Over the last nine years, through the Imbuto Foundation, borne of and expanding on the PACFA initiative, Mrs. Kagame has spearheaded, in a fresh, dynamic and momentous way, the implementation of several initiatives on health, education, economic and youth empowerment throughout the country. Dr. Jack L. White joined his current firm last August after serving as a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice, The Honorable Samuel A. Alito, Jr. Before joining Judge Alito’s staff, White was an associate at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP in San Francisco from 2006 to 2008. From 2004 to 2006, White served as an associate at Kirkland & Ellis LLP, also of San Francisco, and from 2003 to 2004 worked as a judicial clerk for Judge Alito in Newark, N.J. He worked as a law clerk for Kirkland & Ellis LLP in the Los Angeles office from 2002 to 2003. White served in the U.S. Army from 1995 to 2000 and remained in the Army Reserve until 2004. White graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y, with a bachelor of science – systems engineering/operations research in 1995. He was awarded West Point Cadet of the Year in 1992. White graduated from Pepperdine University School of Law, magna cum laude, in 2003, was editor in chief of the Pepperdine Law Review, and president of the Christian Legal Society. White has also served as an assistant minister at the Golden Gate Church of Christ in San Francisco and the Midtown Church of Christ in Savannah, Ga. He is very active in community service work including encouraging professional development in Newark inner-city youth through the New Jersey AllStars.

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